15 Pro Cameras Under $250 [March, 2024]

Cameras designed for professional use have better ergonomics, built quality, and features. They are often significantly better than newer entry level cameras.

Lens costs were not included. A kit zoom, 50mm f1.8, or equivalent standard lens can easily be found for less than $100.

Cameras have been ordered roughly in terms of price to performance. Availability can be an issue for cameras lower on the list. This is due to the systems not being supported for very long due to poor sales.

Model Year MSRP MP Weight Sensor
Canon EOS 5D Mark II 2008 $2,699 21.0 810g FF
Olympus OM-D E-M1 2013 $1,399 16.0 497g MFT
Panasonic GH3 2012 $1,299 16.0 550g MFT
Nikon D700 2008 $2,999 12.1 995g FF
Nikon D7100 2013 $1,199 24.0 765g APS-C
Canon 70D 2013 $1,199 20.2 675g APS-C
Pentax K-5 II 2012 $1,199 16.3 760g APS-C
Sony A6000 2014 $799 24.0 344g APS-C
Fujifilm X-A2 2015 $549 16.3 350g APS-C
Sony A77 2011 $1,399 24.3 650g APS-C
Nikon 1 J5 2015 $499 20.8 231g 1”
Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro 2006 $1,899 12.1 830g ~APS-C
Olympus E-3 2007 $1,699 10.1 890g Four Thirds
Pentax Q7 2013 $499 12.0 200g 1/1.7”
Samsung NX20 2012 $1,099 20.3 341g APS-C

Entry level models were included just to have coverage of a mount/sensor/manufacture combo.

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I’m pretty sure there are more EF mount lenses than any other mount. Compatibility is excellent and there is a full lens lineup. Plus, they can be easily adapted to mirrorless mounts.

Keep in mind that it is not compatible with Canon EOS EF-S lenses. Those are made for APS-C camera bodies, such as the Canon 70D.

Magic Lantern turns it into a cinema camera. In that situation, the size and weight is less likely to be an issue because it will need to be rigged up. That will push the price of a kit up, so take that into account.

It uses CF memory cards, which are more expensive than SD cards. I am currently using a SD to CF card adapter, which works with a 128GB card. I tested it against a CF card and did not see any speed difference in the camera clearing the buffer.

Micro Four Thirds is my favorite lens mount because of all the pancake lenses and dirt cheap primes. It’s so easy to be able to effortlessly carry around multiple lenses.

The features are mind-blowing considering it’s from 2013. The build quality is top tier and the tilt screen is perfect for photography.

  • 5-axis Image Stabilization (IBIS)
  • 37 phase detection AF points, 81 contrast
  • Weather Sealing

Interlaced 1080i video at 30fps is not good, especially compared against the Canon 5D Mark II.

Lens adapters and speed boosters are available for various mounts. I have an EF to M43 adapter so I can use the Lensbaby 3G on both cameras.

Other options: Olympus OM-D E-M5

It can record 1080p60 video, but no 4k. That still leaves it as one of the better options for video on this list.

It is weather sealed, but there aren’t lots of inexpensive weather sealed lenses.

Other options: GH4 is available for under $350 and can record 4k.

It has the same sensor as the Nikon D3. Low light performance was the original reason to buy the camera.

I previously owned a Nikon D750, which was great, other than the eye cup constantly falling off. That fault was annoying enough to turn me off of Nikon DSLRs.

For manual focus lenses I would go with a mirrorless camera for the focusing aids. The camera really only makes sense if you want AF to work on AF and D series lenses that relied on the screw drive motor.

  • Nikon 50mm f1.8D
  • Nikon 50mm f1.4D
  • Nikon DC-Nikkor 105mm f2 (Defocus Control)
  • 85mm f1.8D
  • 85mm f1.4D

I prefer the 50mm f1.8D to the 50mm f1.8G. The D series is not as sharp and has some vignetting. So while it is technically worse, the images look better with less work.

Other options: An alternative would be the Nikon D600, but it had a recall for oil spots on the sensor. The replacement, D610, sells for just over $250.

This is a famous body that is preferred over the models it’s sandwiched between. Everyone seems to prefer the image quality over those other models.

Regardless, it is the top APS-C model that Nikon offered. You’re going to get a good user experience.

I would be interested in this model would be to use the Nikon DX 10.5mm f2.8 fisheye, wide zooms, or macro lenses. Canon doesn’t have a EF-S fisheye, and the macro lenses are less expensive.

Other options: Nikon D7000, Nikon D300

There were 2 different weather sealed kit lenses it was sold with. The downside is that Pentax barely had any market share so finding other lenses can be difficult.

Likely the cheapest way to get a weather sealed body and lens on the list.

Other options: Pentax K-5, Pentax K-5 IIs

These are basically here to prove I checked prices. Several have dead mounts, where there are not very many lenses to choose from. Sony E and Fuji X lenses are too expensive for this budget.

This is likely the best of what’s available. I don’t think it’s a good option for most people.

It’s APS-C and all the best lenses are going to be full frame. That means more expensive, larger, and heavier.

I’d rather just pay more for an original A7 or A7S, get a compact camera, or choose a MFT body.

Other options: Sony A5100

It’s an entry level camera. The pickings are slim at this price point and lenses are expensive.

If you want an X-mount camera that will be a good experience, you’re going to have to spend more. A budget of at least $1,000 is what you’re going to need to have a good experience with the Fuji X-mount system.

The A-mount was never popular and is now dead. Other than a handful of consumer zooms and an incredible 50mm f1.8, lenses are hard to find and expensive.

Gear nerds might find it interesting because it is a Single-Lens Translucent (SLT) camera. Sony made a dozen bodies before killing the tech in favor of mirrorless designs.

SLT-A77V is the variant with GPS.

From Nikon’s short lived CX series. It uses a 1" sensor, which has a 2.7x crop factor. Only a handful of lenses were made. It was a short lived system.

Other options: Nikon 1 V2, Nikon 1 V3, Nikon 1 AW1 (Only 2 weather sealed lenses available?)

The first digital cameras Fujifilm made used Nikon F-mount lenses. Newer Nikon bodies are going to have better specs.

It uses a 23.0 mm × 15.5 mm Super CCD SR Pro sensor. It’s an ~1.56x crop factor compared to full frame.

I wouldn’t recommend it as a first, second, or third camera. You should have some experience with photography.

There are also ultraviolet and infrared versions. They are more expensive than $250 and difficult to find.

Other options: Fujifilm S3 Pro

It’s a giant SLR with a tiny sensor. Lenses can be difficult to find as well as being surprisingly expensive.

I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It’s old enough to where you’re going to have to read the manual. You should be familiar with older tech and know what you’re getting yourself into.

In theory, I want one of these. Then I look at other bodies I could spend money on.

Compact cameras are strong competition, with many having larger sensors than the 1/1.7" in the Q7.

They came in a variety of color, with matching kit zoom lens. It’s a constant battle with self control not to buy one of these when they come up.

Look under the ‘Lens-interchangeable SL Digital-still Camera’ accordion. It’s Ricoh because they currently own the Pentax brand name.

There are only a few lenses and they can be expensive and difficult to find. The system was not around very long.

While no doubt capable, the novelty factor works against them in driving prices up. You’re going to get better value with a different system.